New Hampshire gets federal money for substance abuse

New Hampshire is getting more federal money to help address the scourge of opioid addiction and other substance abuse problems.

The state has been awarded $4.7 million through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Comprehensive Opioid, Substance Abuse and Stimulant Program, which will be used to hire new police officers to respond to overdose calls and connect addicts and families with options for substance abuse treatment and counseling.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said the influx of federal funding will “make a huge difference in our state’s capacity to respond to the scope of this epidemic.”

“For years, New Hampshire has been on the frontlines of the substance use disorder crisis, with loved ones succumbing to addiction and communities reeling in the wake,” she said in a statement. “The trauma of the substance use disorder crisis is felt by children and entire communities, and I’m hopeful this multigenerational approach will help us finally heal and put this epidemic behind us.”

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., said the goal is to expand access to treatment and help “eliminate the stigma” surrounding substance abuse disorders.

“By equipping our first responders, including law enforcement officers, with the tools they need to best respond to overdose crises and by connecting families to mental health and trauma services after intervention, this funding will help to address the substance abuse crisis,” Kuster said.

The Justice Department is distributing more than $300 million nationwide in the latest round of funding disbursements in response to a dramatic rise in opioid related deaths during the pandemic.

“Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation is experiencing a precipitous rise in opioid and stimulant misuse and overdoses,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The Justice Department is committed to supporting programs aimed at addressing the substance use crisis that is devastating communities across the nation.”

New Hampshire is one of two states including South Dakota that didn’t see an overall rise in opioid overdose deaths last year, but major cities like Manchester and Concord have recently seen an uptick in the number of drug fatalities.

In 2020, there were 416 confirmed and two possible opioid related deaths, compared to 415 the previous year, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

As of July, there were 214 confirmed or possible deaths, which is lower than July 2020 but slightly higher than the number of fatalities in July 2019, the agency reported.

New Hampshire spent millions of dollars in federal funds into 2019 to expand access to treatment facilities and reduce wait times to get into recovery programs.

Substance abuse experts say lockdowns and social distancing precautions have hindered access to medication-assisted treatment and counseling services for addicts.

Nationally, more than 100,000 people died of fatal overdoses in 2020 – a 30% increase, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Joe Biden called it “a tragic milestone” and has urged Congress to divert billions of dollars more to addressing the substance abuse crisis nationwide.

This article was originally posted on New Hampshire gets federal money for substance abuse

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